Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Foo For The Soul: 'Wasting Light' Burns Bright, Even If Its Permanence Remains to Be Seen -- Album Review

Album Review

Foo Fighters
Wasting Light

I have loved Foo Fighters since I first heard the first song ("This Is A Call") on their first album--actually a Dave Grohl solo project, as he played all the instruments--back in 1995.

Since then, I have bought every album they've released and seen them live numerous times. They are easily among the Top 10 concert acts I've ever seen and stand--along with Pearl Jam, Green Day and R.E.M.--as one of the last of the great American rock bands (at least among those of considerable stature, longevity and ongoing activity).

Like those other three bands, over the years they have released more than enough stellar songs to fill satisfying concert setlists and compilation discs (and/or iPod playlists), and have never put out any albums that I haven't found at least worthwhile--and better than much else that crosses my earwaves. But also similarly, much of the Foos' recorded output has somewhat blended together in my memory.

Foo Fighters "Live On Letterman" dressed as The Beatles;
see full-length concert performance here
To wit, Grohl and his now mostly static-for-some-time bandmates have put out seven studio albums, but except for the first two and the new one--which I've been playing frequently over the past week--I would be hard pressed to tell you which songs were on which record. 2002's One By One, 2005's In Your Honor and 2007's Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace have all been solid, or even good, but not spectacular to the point of standing out from one another.

Released in the U.S. on Tuesday, April 12, Wasting Light has gone straight to #1 on the Billboard album chart--a Foo Fighters first in America; the album also hit #1 in 11 other countries and no less a source than the BBC calls them Britain's Favourite Rock Band--and has been accompanied by many highly laudatory reviews.

Adding it to my collection was a no-brainer, but after the first few listens, I wasn't sure it was really anything special, relatively speaking. But its depth and quality have quickly grown on me. While I can't be certain that I will care too much about the entire record a few years from now, and don't think it quite rivals Foo Fighters or The Colour and The Shape, at this point I enjoy it as much as any of their albums since those first two.

More powerfully enjoyable than groundbreakingly brilliant--a good summation of the band overall--Wasting Light is infused with (per David Fricke's likewise 4 out of 5 review in Rolling Stone) more overt references to Nirvana and Kurt Cobain's suicide than Grohl has heretofore surfaced. (I doubt anyone reading this doesn't already know, but Grohl was the drummer in Nirvana before revealing his skills as a singer/songwriter/guitarist with Foo Fighters.)

This provides a depth of emotion that sometimes seems a bit lacking in the Foos arena-rock sound, and though new songs like "Arlandia" and "Back and Forth" are still a good bit glossier than early screamers "I'll Stick Around" and "Monkey Wrench," one senses a bit more of Grohl's heart & soul blasting through than has been consistently apparent over the past decade. And knowing "I Should Have Known" is unabashedly about Cobain--and features Krist Novoselic on bass--gives it a resonance even more powerful than the song itself.

While lead single "Rope" doesn't elevate much over other recent Foo singles like "The Pretender" or "Wheels," it is one of at least 7 songs on Wasting Light--of 11 total--that I would classify as very good or better, with even the filler fulfillingly solid. Bob Mould's guest spot on "Dear Rosemary" is a highlight and "Bridge Burning" and "Walk," respectively, open and close the set in strong fashion.

Although Foo Fighters and producer Butch Vig--he of Nevermind fame--haven't created a classic anywhere near the level of that Nirvana masterpiece, or even their own initial CDs, they've nonetheless put together a thoroughly engaging album that should rank as one of the year's best, sound great in concert and hopefully grow even more memorable over time.

To paraphrase AC/DC, for those who always rock, I salute Foo.

(Below is a video of Foo Fighters playing their new album, Wasting Light, live in its entirety.)

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